Photo: Sierra Club, iStockphoto/MikeNorton – Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
“I’m gettin’ married in the morning. Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime. We’ll have a whopper, pull out the stopper. Get me to the church on time.” Composers: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, “Get Me To The Church on Time” from “My Fair Lady”
Have you ever been somewhere, a geographical location, in your life where you have bad memories attached to that location? Have you ever had something horrific occur either to you, or witnessed something horrific, so much so that whenever you drive by that location your hair stands up on your neck? Most of us have. In the swarm of the rage, locale seems to be what sticks to the memory. In most cases, just the street, the structure, the building, or the name of such, can cause flashbacks of darker days, hurtful moments. In fact, often times, that street, structure or building is avoided, even if it takes a few turns out of the way of traveling from point A to point B.
(The church photo above is not the church building mentioned below.)
Recently, I got a phone call concerning an old family friend’s passing. I wanted to attend his memorial service, regardless of when or where it might be. Waiting each day after his death, and keeping my eyes on obituary notifications, I finally learned where the service would take place. It wasn’t a surprise to me where the tribute would be held when I read of the location. He had been serving as an usher in Sunday morning church services not far from where I live. It happened to be at a church building where I attended in my teenage years.
It had been 40 years since I worshiped there. Frankly, when I did leave that congregation at the time, I ran and ran hard. Many others did the same. Unfortunately, because of the twisting of what Jesus taught, there are several former parishioners that never darkened the doors of another church again. In fact, as for me, never in my wildest dreams did I ever construct a scenario that would drag my feet across the threshold of the front door of that place. There is much to tell here, but I will spare you the gory details. Just know, even as a teen, I knew the scent of harmful and secretive inner-church politics, dominated by a corrupt dictator of a pastor. Extreme unjustified hyper-judgmental teaching ruled the day every time the doors were opened. It would be a mistake to not include the fact that I was a victim of some of the false teaching which fueled the attitudes of parishioners delivered by the man in the corner church office. This species of spiritual abuse stunts spiritual growth, amputates joy and plants painful shaming as the end result. Unlawful, unbiblical teaching can and will shadow the listener for years to come. The shaping from false biblical thought is like a child working with wet putty, resulting in distorted shapes. It’s the same reason the warnings against this practice in biblical passages are so stark, hard and ominous.
At that time in my life I was not a true student of the scriptures. I was ignorant of the textual evidence to support what my spirit already knew. Later, many years later, I became more studious with biblical text. Then, and only then, did the realization wrap me in the confidence that God had placed the unrest inside of me back in the day. When teaching is contrary to scripture, the consistent Bible student knows the difference. After all, God does not suffer from multiple personality disorders.
When Bible readers take the time to truly study what has been written down for us, then we know the ways of the great I AM often comes across as humorous. Yes, God has and shares His sense of humor. The day of the funeral, I re-discovered this truth once again.
Driving into the parking lot, I began to show familiar signs of stress and anxiety. I had donned a sports jacket which hid the sweat soaking through my shirt. Seriously, walking through those doors was a true test of my endurance. Immediately, I began to see the extensive remodeling of the building which obviously had taken place over the decades. There was a drastic color change, new pews, reconstructed stage, etc. Right away, just the fact the building looked like a different place gave me some relief from how I was feeling.
(Photo not from the location.)
Truly, the greatest aid toward my sore, bruised heart, was the actual congregation. Long-gone was the “old guard” who had been shaped by the now retired, misguided pastor. I had also learned that the corruption hurt the congregation to the point of reduction of parishioners. (Once 500-600 attendees strong.) Apparently, due to a modern-day exodus, all were victims, to some degree, of a power-hungry clergyman who ruled over the unsuspecting flock. In the end, there was no one there to remind me of the way things once were under the roof of the facility. All of those years there was no need for the angst and bitterness I harbored. If you find false teaching in a place, move on until you find where a correct biblical doctrine is taught. God certainly has His ways.
Walking away from the memorial service for my departed friend, I was struck by a deeply-seeded biblical truth. The classical Greek, the original language of the New Testament, spells it out: “Ekklesia” (ek-Klay-See’-ah). In Hebrew it is very close to the word, “Adat” (uh-DOT’ or uh-DOTH’). It is the the word Jesus used to describe HIS “church.” It is NOT a building, even though we might say the wedding is “at the church,” or turn left “at the church in red brick.” “Ekklesia” means an assembly, or a gathering of people. In short, we might say, congregation. Sure, the building had been updated, painted, remodeled, but also, the local “ekklesia” who assembled at the address, had been changed. He will do what He will with His ekklesia.
His ekklesia was to be built on ROCK, not shifting sand. What foundation could manage shifting sand?
As a serious believer in the teachings of Jesus, my job is to be sure the attitude of my heart is remodeled, painted and updated. He came to make all things new. Therefore, I should follow in His newness, adding fuel for the race.
“…upon this rock I will build My chucrch (ekklesian); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” -Jesus. From Matthew 16:18b (NAS)